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There's a gap between Youngstown and Frangos - and don't cover it with plywood

By Todd Franko (Contact)


Published June 12, 2008

There are plenty of strange marriages in the world.

Add to that list the union of the city and Lou Frangos.

How is it that Frangos locks up some of the choicest downtown properties for his development ideas, is the toast of the town several weeks ago when he launches the long-awaited Realty Towers residential project, has YSU interested in partnering with him on student housing — and yet he is derided and distrusted by so many.

I wondered that this week because the praise I expected to linger long after his May 14 Realty Towers launch lasted about as long as Gary Lockett did against Kelly Pavlik.

“Plywood” about sums it up.

That's what Frangos intended to use to protect the historic Stambaugh Building after pulling out most of its windows following a Memorial Day weekend mishap.

I think it's important to avoid pile-on with Frangos and the plywood. Heck, even Pavlik allowed Lockett to take a knee once (even, three times).

But there is an expanding gap that is troubling.

How does the city's top developer not tell the city he has a problem with one of the landmark buildings downtown? Even if it is an "emergency" — I have to think Frangos has digits for some city official he can call at 3 a.m.

"Um — windows are falling out of the Stambaugh ..."

How does no one from the city or the pack of downtown brickhuggers not see for an entire week the window removal going on in the heart of downtown and raise a stink?

How does the leader of our downtown revitalization think that window removal is needed, when a city department head sees the fix as a $3 tube of caulk?

My family helped plant flowers last weekend for the city’s StreetScape effort. The Stambaugh windows permeated the event. Physically — the fenced-off protection closed East Federal and limit access to parts of the plaza intended for work. Mentally — the gaping holes seemed to counter the mission of the day, which was to improve downtown.

At least three people — including a city councilman — asked me if The Vindicator was going to do something to fix “those windows.” It was humbling and rewarding, but also puzzling. We’re not the city. We don’t have zoning powers the last I checked.

I wrote a week or so ago about the need for the city to partner with other developers besides Frangos for downtown development. It was not a slam against Frangos. It was just a realization that putting too much hope on one guy is risky.

Amend that thought:

It's risky putting too much hope on a guy who would plywood windows 12 or so floors into the skyline at the same time leaders are trying to rid plywood as a street-level eyesore.

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